|United States Minister to Prussia|
July 18, 1846 – November 2, 1849
|President||James K. Polk|
|Preceded by||Henry Wheaton|
|Succeeded by||Edward A. Hannegan|
|United States Chargé d'Affaires to Texas|
November 29, 1844 – August 9, 1845
James K. Polk
|Preceded by||Tilghman Howard|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished|
|Born||August 25, 1799|
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||June 26, 1871 (aged 71)|
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
|Know Nothing (1856)|
Constitutional Union (1860)
(m. 1824; died 1836)
Elizabeth Martin Randolph
(m. 1841; died 1871)
|Children||Andrew Jackson Donelson Jr. (1826–1859)|
Mary Emily Donelson (1829–1905)
John Samuel Donelson (1832–1863)
Rachel Jackson Donelson (1834–1888)
|Relatives||Rachel Jackson (paternal aunt)|
Daniel Smith Donelson (brother)
|Education||University of Nashville|
United States Military Academy (BS)
Andrew Jackson Donelson (August 25, 1799 – June 26, 1871) was an American diplomat. He served in various positions as a Democrat and was the Know Nothing nominee for US Vice President in 1856.
After the death of his father, Donelson lived with his aunt, Rachel Jackson, and her husband, Andrew Jackson. Donelson attended the U.S. Military Academy and served under his uncle in Florida. He resigned his commission, studied law, passed the bar and began his own practice in Nashville. He assisted Jackson's presidential campaigns and served as his private secretary after Jackson won the 1828 presidential election. He returned to Tennessee after the end of Jackson's presidency in 1837 and remained active in local politics.
After helping James K. Polk triumph at the 1844 Democratic National Convention, Donelson was appointed by U.S. President John Tyler to represent the United States in the Republic of Texas, where Donelson played an important role in the Texas annexation. In 1846, President Polk appointed Donelson as Minister to Prussia. Donelson left that position in 1849 and became the editor of a Democratic newspaper but alienated various factions in the party. In 1856, the Know Nothings chose Donelson as their vice presidential nominee, and he campaigned on a ticket with former Whig President Millard Fillmore. The ticket finished in third place in both the electoral and popular vote, behind the Democratic and the Republican tickets. Donelson also participated in the 1860 Constitutional Union Convention.
One of the three sons of Samuel and Mary Donelson, Andrew Jackson Donelson was born in Nashville, Tennessee. His younger brother, Daniel Smith Donelson, would become the Confederate brigadier general after whom Fort Donelson was later named. Donelson's father died when Donelson was about five. When his mother remarried, Donelson moved to The Hermitage, the home of his aunt, Rachel Donelson Jackson, and her husband, Donelson's namesake, the future US President Andrew Jackson. Rachel and Andrew Jackson took care of all three Donelson sons, including Andrew.
Donelson attended Cumberland College, predecessor to the University of Nashville, in Nashville; joined the US Military Academy at West Point, New York; and graduated second in his class in 1820. His two years as an officer in the US Army were spent as aide-de-camp to Andrew Jackson, now a major general who was campaigning against the Seminoles in Florida. After the campaign, Donelson resigned his commission and studied law at Transylvania University, in Lexington, Kentucky. A year later, he started to practice law in Nashville.
Donelson assisted his uncle during the 1824 and 1828 presidential campaigns. In 1829, he became the private secretary to his uncle, who had been inaugurated as President of the United States. Donelson's wife, Emily, served as White House hostess and unofficial First Lady of the United States because Rachel Jackson had died in December 1828. Donelson remained Jackson's private secretary throughout his administration. During Donelson's stay in Washington, Donelson had his new home, Poplar Grove (later renamed Tulip Grove), constructed on the land he had inherited from his father, which was adjacent to the Hermitage.
In 1836, Tulip Grove was completed. Donelson moved back to Nashville after Jackson's retirement the following year. Donelson helped Jackson sustain the Democratic Party in a variety of ways for the next seven years in services such as writing newspaper editorials defending Democratic principles and helping Democratic candidates campaign for state, local, and national offices.
In 1844, Donelson was instrumental in helping James K. Polk win the Democratic presidential nomination over Martin Van Buren and other more notable candidates. US President John Tyler appointed Donelson chargé d'affaires of the United States mission to the Republic of Texas, probably in the hope that Jackson's nephew would be able to persuade former Tennessee politician Sam Houston to endorse the US annexation of Texas. Donelson was successful in that endeavor, and Texas joined the United States on December 29, 1845. Donelson was then made minister to Prussia in 1846, a position that he would hold until President Polk's Democratic administration was replaced by the Whig administration of Zachary Taylor in 1849. Donelson's constant complaining about his personal finances and his desire for a higher salary probably had more to do with the change than partisan differences.
Between September 1848 and November 1849, during the time of the Frankfurt Parliament, he was the US envoy to the short-lived revolutionary government of Germany in Frankfurt.
In 1851, Donelson became the editor of the Washington Union, a Democratic newspaper. However, as sectionalism became the dominant issue of American politics, Donelson became unpopular with several factions within the Democratic Party, which forced him out in 1852. He then joined the Know Nothing (American) Party.
In 1856, Donelson was nominated as the running mate of former President Millard Fillmore on the Know Nothing (American Party) ticket. Fillmore and Donelson managed to garner over 20% of the popular vote but won only the eight electoral votes of Maryland.
In 1858, Donelson sold Tulip Grove and moved to Memphis, Tennessee. He participated primarily in local politics there, although he was a delegate to the Constitutional Union party's national nominating convention, which selected his old Tennessee nemesis, John Bell, as its presidential candidate.
During the American Civil War, Donelson was harassed by both sides of the conflict and lost two of his sons in the war. During Reconstruction, he split time between his Memphis home and his plantation in Bolivar County, Mississippi. In his correspondence with his wife, he groused about the need to pay wages to Black workers who had once been enslaved.
He died at the Peabody Hotel, Memphis, in June 1871 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Donelson married his first cousin, Emily Tennessee Donelson, in 1824. Emily died of tuberculosis in December 1836. They had four children: Andrew Jackson Donelson Jr. (1826-1859), Mary Emily Donelson (1829-1905), John Samuel Donelson (1832-1863), and Rachel Jackson Donelson (1834-1888).
In 1841, Donelson married his second cousin, Elizabeth (Martin) Randolph (1815-1871). Elizabeth was the widow of Meriwether Lewis Randolph (1810-1837), a son of Martha Jefferson Randolph, and a grandson of Thomas Jefferson. Donelson and his second wife had eight children: Daniel Smith Donelson (1842-1864), Martin Donelson (1847-1889), William Alexander Donelson (1849-1900), Catherine Donelson (1850-1868), Vinet Donelson (1854-1913), Lewis Randolph Donelson Sr. (1855-1927), Rosa Elizabeth Donelson (1858-1861), and Andrew Jackson "Budie" Donelson (1860-1915).
Two of Donelson's sons died in the Civil War. John Samuel died at the Battle of Chickamauga, and Daniel Smith was murdered by an unknown assailant.